Leash Training

Proper Techniques For Putting On A Dog Harness: A How-To Guide

by Anoushka Shetty

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A dog harness is a great alternative to a collar.

A collar can tighten around your dog’s neck, which may cause breathing issues, rashes, and spine problems.

On the other hand, the chest straps of a harness apply gentle & painless pressure to your dog’s torso.

However, all the straps & buckles of a harness can get confusing! So, we’ve compiled an easy guide on how to put on a dog harness & leash without harming your pooch. 

How Should I Put On A Dog Harness?

Person Attaching a Leash to a Dogs Harness

1. Introduce The Harness

Do you know why it’s so easy to train pups? Dogs are really good at forming life-long associations. So, when you tell them to “Speak,” they bark. And when you reward them, they form an association between the command and the action.

Also, since they are being rewarded with treats & praise, they associate following your instructions with positive feelings. 

This is an example of how we can use associations to our advantage. Similarly, if you introduce the harness to your pet in a slow & controlled manner, you will be able to form a positive association that will make your pup excited to wear it. 

Firstly, let your dog explore the harness on his own terms. Place it on the floor & allow your dog to smell it & move it around. They should understand that it can’t hurt them if they wear it.

However, if your dog starts to play with it like a toy, remove it from his mouth with a stern “No” command & don’t engage with your dog for a few minutes. Then, you can try this process again. 

After your dog is comfortable with the harness & doesn’t really react when it is bought close to him, you can begin with the next stage of desensitization. 

Bring the harness straps close to your dog’s face. Don’t buckle the harness clips around his neck yet, as this can stress him out. The most important thing to remember is to work slowly & don’t overwhelm your pup. 

If you introduce the harness suddenly & immediately clip it onto your dog’s neck, this could stress him out & activate his fight-or-flight response. This will lead to barking, growling, and even biting. 

If you notice any stressed-out behaviors, such as whining, barking, pacing, or lip licking, remove the harness from your dog’s vicinity & give your pooch some time to cool down. 

2. Identify The Type Of Harness

dog on rear seat of car attached safely with harness

There are many different types of harnesses available on the market & you can choose the perfect one for your preferences and needs. However, there are 2 types of basic harnesses that you need to know before you put one on your pooch. 

The most common type is a step-in harness. In this style, the 2 leg loops are fully closed. Your dog’s legs need to be placed in the holes & then you can attach it around his neck.

This is a fantastic option if your dog won’t let you touch his head, and he is sensitive to things being around his neck. 

Another common type of harness is an overhead harness. This is a really simple harness to put on & is great if your dog can deal with a strap going over his head. 

Each type of harness has its pros & cons, and they also have different methods of getting it around your pooch. Read on to find out how!

3. Secure The Harness

Young Man Putting Harness on His Dog 1

Securing the neck strap is the hardest part of putting pet harnesses on. Dogs with behavioral issues may bite or lunge at you as you try to attach this loop, so it’s important to have the correct technique while doing so. 

Step In Putting On A Dog’s Harness:

1. Put the harness on the ground. Lay the harness flat on the ground with the straps unbuckled. It should be in the perfect position for your dog to put his paws in the holes. 

2. Make your dog sit before the harness. Put your dog in a sitting position about 3-6 inches away from the harness. Make sure your dog is already comfortable with the harness, or else he will want to sniff it & bite it. If your dog is still young, you may need to lay your dog down or ask someone else to hold him & distract him with a treat. 

3. Put the 2 legs in the leg straps. Now, you need to place your dog’s paws in the leg loop in front of him. Make sure to put the legs in one by one & don’t yank too hard, as this can cause pain in your dog’s joints. 

4. Pull the harness up. Pull the harness up your dog’s legs so that the chest piece is flush with his chest. Then, buckle it in around the back or the side, wherever you see the clasp. 

5. Reward him. If your dog lets you slip the leash on, give him some of his favorite treats as a reward! 

Overhead Harness:

Teenage Girl Putting a Harness on Her Dog

1. Make your dog sit. To calm your pooch down & to ensure that he doesn’t move around, you will need to make your pup sit or stand. If your dog is still young, let a friend hold him around the belly area so that he can’t escape.

2. Slip the neck through. Look for the smaller loop on the harness, which should be connected to the D-ring for the leash. This loop should go around your dog’s neck. Slide the harness over your dog’s head and lower it to your pup’s shoulder area. If it is too high, it will pinch your dog’s shoulders & it will choke his neck.

3. Put one paw through. There should be 1 leg loop that doesn’t need buckling. Simply lift up your dog’s paw & slide it through. Ensure that the loop isn’t too tight, or your dog won’t have total shoulder mobility. 

4. Buckle the other paw. Put the straps around the other leg and buckle it shut in the back. Make sure you pull on the strap to ensure that it has clicked together. 

5. Attach the leash. The last step is to attach the lead to your dog’s harness. There are 2 types of leash clips. The first is a front-clip harness that attaches to the chest piece; this is a good option if you need more control over your dog & if they lunge. However, it should not be used for brachycephalic breeds or barrel-chested breeds because if you pull on the lead, it may cause your dog to become breathless. The other type is a back-clip harness. This is the traditional design with the D-ring in the back. While this doesn’t give you as much control over your dog’s movements, it doesn’t cause any breed-specific issues. Make sure your leash is comfortable to hold & the right length for your needs

I still have trouble with my puppy biting the harness as I put it on. To remedy this, I make sure I have plenty of treats available to distract him from playing with the harness.

If he starts to bite the fabric, I put him in a “Sit” position & go through a bunch of other tricks. This resets his attention & focuses it on training, rather than destroying!

How Should A Harness Fit?

Young pit bull terrier dog in harness

The harness should be snug, but not too tight. You should be able to slide 2 fingers under the straps, but not be able to wiggle them around. The harness should be low on your dog’s shoulders.

If it is too high up his chest, it will choke his neck just like a collar. The leg holes should not be too tight and should be low on the shoulders so that your dog has a full range of motion. 

Make sure that the harness does not cause your dog’s skin or fat to roll. This is an indicator that you need to increase the size. 

How Should I Measure My Dog For A Harness?

There are several measurements that you need to take for your dog & his harness. You should use these measurements to ensure a good fit.

If you’re stuck in between sizes, always size up. This is because you can always adjust it to make it smaller, but the smaller size may run too tight. 

Weight

Dachshund Puppy Being Measured and Weighed

Weight is a good indicator if your pup will need a small, medium, large, or even extra-large harness. The easiest way to weigh your dog is to hold your pooch and step on the weighing scale, and then weigh yourself. 

Subtract your weight from your dog’s combined weight and that’s the weight of your canine companion. However, this could be a little impossible for giant breed lovers! If you have a dog you can’t pick up, you might need to invest in a pet scale. 

Make sure you weigh your dog before breakfast & after going to the bathroom. 

Chest

To measure your dog’s chest, you need to take a flexible measuring tape & wrap it around your dog’s chest along the broadest part, just under his legs. 

Neck

Similarly, take a flexible measuring tape & wrap it around the broadest part of your dog’s neck, near the chest. It should be a little lower than wear his collar sits.

Pros & Cons Of A Dog Harness

Shiba Inu dog in a bright pink harness

If you’re confused between a dog leash & a dog harness, consider some of the benefits & drawbacks of this training tool. 

Pros

Reduces the pressure on your dog’s neck

Doesn’t limit your pup’s natural range of motion

Makes it harder for your pet to lunge

Provides greater control of your dog during walks

Can be put on without slipping it over your dog’s head – great for anxious dogs who are sensitive around the head

cons

Can take some getting used to for anxious canines

May be a little bulky for smaller dogs

Larger harnesses can cause matting for dogs with long fur

Front-clasp harnesses can cause long-term breathing issues for brachycephalic breeds

Hard to get the perfect fit for a harness

Conclusion

Harnesses are a fantastic tool to use for leash training. However, it can be difficult to find the right fit & secure it onto your dog. 

That’s why you need to ensure that you spend time getting your dog used to the harness, and then carefully & slowly clip it on. 

If you have any questions, please leave a comment down below. Share this article with friends who are considering buying a harness & don’t know how to put it on. 

Thanks for reading!

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